TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban is keeping Alabama’s quarterback situation shrouded in as much mystery as possible.
The second-ranked Crimson Tide’s coach said Monday that no decision has been made on whether Jake Coker or Blake Sims would start Saturday against West Virginia in Atlanta, or if both would play.
Saban did employ a baseball analogy involving Yankees manager and friend Joe Girardi to indicate that the starter won’t be guaranteed of going the distance whatever the plan going into the game.
”I mean, Joe Girardi tells (Masahiro) Tanaka he’s starting in the game, he’s not telling him he’s going to pitch nine innings,” Saban said. ”Does he tell them that or does he just pitch until he doesn’t pitch well anymore?”
Of course, the goal is not to need a bullpen as the season progresses.
Coker and Sims are vying to replace Heisman Trophy runner-up AJ McCarron, who went through a similar situation in 2011. McCarron started the opener against Kent State and alternated every few series with Phillip Sims.
Both were intercepted twice in the first game but McCarron was awarded the starting job the next game against Penn State, and wound up helping the Tide win the next two national titles.
That’s the big question facing new Alabama quarterbacks these days: Can he lead the Tide to the title?
”Both of those guys are capable of leading us to the national championship,” fullback Jalston Fowler said. ”We just have to support them and be behind them and make sure they’re confident and have that confidence every week no matter who is playing.”
Sims has the advantage of experience in Alabama’s offense after two seasons as McCarron’s backup and one as a running back. He’s still only attempted 39 passes in two seasons and both quarterbacks are working with new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
Coker didn’t arrive in Tuscaloosa until May. He left Florida State after last season when Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy and led the Seminoles to a national title.
Saban said know-how often comes before confidence not the other way around.
”We say players play without confidence, but to think that a guy can play with confidence when he doesn’t yet have knowledge is almost, like, stupid,” Saban said. ”A player has to be able to develop knowledge and understanding of what he’s supposed to do for him to really have confidence in doing it.
”Young players struggle with this and somebody at the quarterback position who is in a new system, terminology and all that, that’s got to be a bit of a factor.”
He said both contenders have done ”a very, very good job.”
Whoever wins will have a strong supporting cast led by tailbacks T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake and receivers Amari Cooper and Christion Jones. They’ll also have a freshman left tackle since Cam Robinson is listed as the starter in the depth chart released Monday.
Tide players measured their words carefully on the quarterback situation but said it hasn’t been a distraction and both candidates are helping each other out.
”They both push each other and they’re both getting better day by day,” right tackle Austin Shepherd said. ”I think that kind of helps, but we honestly have no idea who’s going to start yet. I’m just happy to see both of those guys succeeding and doing well.”